One of the toughest challenges for any GM is figuring out a way to work with the various personalities and playing styles of his players. Having been a GM since I was 9, I’ve ran into all sorts of players that get their kicks from different things in a game and I’ve had to tailor my games accordingly. Here are a few ways to make it easier for a new GM.
- Talk to your players – By far the first, and often the most important step that a lot of GMs tend to ignore. Remember that gaming is a social activity, and just because you’re the one running the game, everyone has to bow down to you and your expectations. GMing isn’t about lording your whims on your players. Like any sort of social or team activity, it involves the cooperation of everyone involved. Even before starting a game try to sit all the players down and start hammering out what you want out of the game, and letting them air out their concerns and expectations.
- Take notes on what the players like and dislike – Talk is cheap. Once players have voiced their opinions in what they expect in a game, don’t turn around and stab them in the back by giving them something entirely opposite of what they were looking forward to. While variety is the spice of life, throwing a full-on combat situation against a character that has absolutely no combat skills is cruel. The opposite is also true as nobody who wants to be a combat machine wants to be continuously shamed in social situations. Remember that games are about empowerment in one way or another and people play for fun, not to be ridiculed.
- Plan around your players – Taking the likes of your players, start planning scenes and obstacles based on what they like rather than dislike. In the end, you get happier players as their characters are given a chance to really show what they can do, and you get feedback from players that you can, in turn use to generate more adventures for their characters.
These three simple things can help you sidestep butting heads with players and give you a feel for their playing style. While not foolproof, it’ll at least give you something to work with.